[discuss] Clarifications on some recent Changes

Adiel Akplogan adiel at afrinic.net
Wed Feb 5 12:14:17 UTC 2014

Dear all,

Here below is an attempt to answer some of the questions questions that come up on the mailing list along with further explanation of some of the recent changes we have brought to the /1net list and operation mainly:

1. the Post of a summary of what’s happened on the mailing list since it was created
2. the update of the website with launch of an online forum

Q1. Why have we done this?
A1. Because many of you asked for it. There have been a lot of calls in recent weeks to make /1net more efficient. The Steering Committee picked up on this concern and the idea of both creating summaries of online discussions and splitting up the list into topics was raised and agreed to. So a summary of what has happened so far was created, and an online forum with different categories was set up.

Q2. What was the purpose of the summary?
A2. As it said on its first page… The purpose of this document is two-fold: 1. To provide a concise summary of discussions that have taken place on the /1net mailing list since its inception. 2. To distill the list's wide-ranging content into a form that will help multiple conversations move toward conclusion or resolution.

Q3. Why does the summary only reflect one side?
A3. We’re not sure that’s an accurate assessment, especially since there is no “one side” on any of the issues that have been under discussion. The summary was designed to be an accurate reflection of what has happened on the list. Otherwise someone would have to make value judgments over what should be given prominence - and that didn’t seem to be the right ethos. 

**It is worth noting that the summary does not in any way preclude people from producing and publishing their own. The goal is to condense a lot of information and discussion into something useful and concise. How that is achieved is far less important than the fact that it is achieved.**

Q4. Doesn’t such an approach give prominence to those that send the most messages?
A4. The issue was considered in some depth. That is why there are four different measures for assessing a particular issue’s overall importance to /1net: Importance, Interest, Agreement and Resolution. You can find an explanation of each in the summary. The idea is that these four factors provide a useful balance across posts.

For example, both ‘Importance’ and ‘Resolution’ are assessed on relatively objective criteria: how an issue fits with /1net’s ability to have a real impact. As an extreme example, if the mailing list discussed only Philip Seymour Hoffman’s recent and untimely death, regardless of the number of posts or depth of agreement, the reality would be that /1net is not in any position to have an impact on the situation or in subsequent policy discussions over drug use, prevention and treatment.

The two other measures: ‘Interest’ and ‘Agreement’ are very much dictated by what happens on the list. And that is how it should be. Until this week, /1net’s deliberations have been carried out almost entirely on a single mailing list.

It should be noted however that ‘Interest’ accounts for different stakeholder groups. So, for example, there was an extensive discussion over definitions within WGIG and the Tunis Agenda but it was noted that most of it was within a single stakeholder group. Likewise, ‘Agreement’ uses the interactions between participants as its measure.

Together these factors should balance out any potential advantage that a frequent poster would have in influencing decisions, while also encouraging people to jump into discussions if they feel their point of view is not being considered.

Q5. Are the issues listed now considered decided or closed?
A5. No, the complete opposite in fact. The summary is intended to provide a foundation from which more constructive conversation can grow. Many participants have been complaining that it is difficult to follow the threads of conversation - this summary should help with that and focus discussions on tangible issues.

Q6. What’s with the new forum?
A6. It has been clear for some time that the single mailing list is making it very difficult for people to follow or discuss specific topics. After numerous suggestions to break the list up into different lists, the Steering Committee agreed to do just that. So, we used an analysis of all the discussions that have taken place on the list so far to drawn up a number of different topic headings and have included them in the online forum to make it easier for people.

Q7. Why is it an online forum and not a number of individual mailing lists?
A7. Put simply, online forums are far more effective at aiding discussion than mailing lists. Just a few advantages of an online forum are:

* Posts are searchable and hence findable
* The ability to view and respond to specific topics is much more defined
* People can help identify the most valuable contributions by “liking” them
* It is much easier to see new topics and to navigate to different topics
* People can choose what they want to see (rather than have to set up email rules to filter out what they don’t want to see)
* Questions can be made and answered and referred to, saving a lot of repetition

However, we know that many of /1net participants are more comfortable using mailing lists/e-mail and so we have gone to some lengths to ensure that people can interact with the online forum from their e-mail and also provide a digest of the forum to this mailing list. 

Within the forum software, you can choose to follow specific topics and have anything posted on these topics sent to you directly by email. You can then contribute to the discussion on such topic by responding to the notification by email. Your message will be automatically published on the forum. Note that You can only respond to individual email messages sent from the forum not the digest.

If you chose to subscribed to the digest of the forum, then you can not interact by mail with the digest and will only have the option to respond online within the specific thread.

Q8. Why do I have to register at the online forum?
A8. The many different ways to transition people to the new forum setup were considered and it came down to either:
a) Asking everyone to set up a new account just once or
b) Creating people’s accounts and inputting their details and then sending them a login
We decided that since everyone on the list was by their nature extremely Internet literate that self-registration was preferable over creating people’s accounts for them. The later had privacy implications and would be much more time-consuming.

Q9. Why can’t people be anonymous?
A9. Since /1net intends to arrive at solutions and answers, the Steering Committee decided it would be best not to allow anonymous postings (not including the huge problem of spam postings that all online forums have to deal with). The issues that /1net will discuss are complex and subject to many points of view. It will be helpful if it is easy to associate an argument with an individual. Finally, a user account enables people to build up credibility and authority within an online forum - and that is likely to be a good thing for /1net’s work.

Q10. Is /1net an initiative or an organization?
A10. Both. The definition of “organization” is: “An organized body of people with a particular purpose, esp. a business, society, association, etc.” Since we have a Steering Committee made up of different selected members from many different groups, then the word “organization” does seem to fit.

Thank you

- a.
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